Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

What's Bugging My Peppers?

by National Gardening Association Editors

As a northern gardener, you won't have too many problems with insects bothering okra, peppers, and eggplant. Southern gardeners will have more problems. Here's a rundown of the most common pests and what can be done for them.

Aphids

Small and of various colors, these sucking insects can drain the sap from peppers, eggplant and okra all season long. If you notice ants near your plants, look for aphids. The aphids give off a sweet substance called "honeydew" that attracts the ants. Aphids also spread plant diseases, so be sure to control them if they're a problem. To get rid of aphids, try spraying with a mild solution of soapy water or put out yellow pans of soapy water (aphids are attracted to yellow). If the infestation is severe, spray with pyrethrum.

Colorado Potato Beetles

These pests will feed on the foliage of eggplant and peppers. The adults are yellow with black stripes down their backs; larvae are reddish with a black head. Hand pick adult beetles and larvae every time you see them. Crush egg masses under leaves. They can be controlled by spraying with Sevin, pyrethrum, or a biological control called Bt San Diego.

Cutworms

The gray, brown or black worms chew tender transplants off at ground level. Cutworms are 1- to 1 1/2- inches long and curl up tightly when disturbed. They hide in the soil and attack at night. You don't have to use anything to control them except newspaper cutworm collars at transplanting time.

Flea Beetles

These tiny black or brown bugs attack young peppers, eggplant and okra. They eat small holes in the leaves, usually early in the season, and if not controlled, can wipe out the foliage entirely, seriously injuring the plants. You can dust with wood ashes or spray with a garlic or hot pepper solution. Spraying with pyrethrum will also control flea beetles.

Pepper Maggots

The adults are yellow flies with brown bands on each wing. They lay their eggs within the peppers, and the maggots feed from the inside out, causing considerable damage. If you see any maggot flies, spray with rotenone to control before they begin egg-laying. Once the maggots are inside the fruit, there's little you can do but pick and destroy infested peppers.

Pepper Weevils

Common in the South, these tiny black-snouted beetles are only 1/8 of an inch long. Don't let their size fool you; they can cause a great deal of damage. Adult weevils feed on the foliage and lay eggs in the buds of immature pepper pods. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat through the buds or fruit, causing them to drop or to be misshapen. There may be several generations a year. Dusting or spraying with pyrethrum helps to control them.

Tomato Fruitworm/Corn Earworm

Nearly 2-inches long, this pest is yellowish, green or brown with lengthwise light and dark stripes. It affects all three of these vegetables, boring into the pods or fruit. To control, cover the plants with a floating row cover to prevent adults from laying eggs, hand pick worms or spray with Sevin as soon as you notice them or the small holes they've bored into the fruit or pods.

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